C.J. Wilson’s evil twin took the mound for the Angels on Monday night. You know the guy: scraggly haired left-hander in the red No. 33 jersey, throws a whole bunch of pitches, a few for strikes.
Five days after his best game this season, the enigmatic Wilson threw his worst game, walking four and failing to survive the first inning of an 8-4 loss to the Oakland Athletics that flashed another high beam of light into the dark place that is the Angels rotation heading into the playoffs.
The Angels have a potentially explosive offense and superb bullpen, and they clinched the American League West title last week. But nine days before the Oct. 2 playoff opener, their rotation is a mess.
The only sure thing is Jered Weaver, the veteran right-hander who is 18-8 with a 3.52 earned-run average and consistently pitches into the seventh inning.
Beyond Weaver is Wilson, who can be as brilliant as he was Wednesday, when he gave up one hit in seven scoreless innings against the Seattle Mariners, and as brutal as he was Monday, when he walked two batters with the bases loaded, gave up a two-run single to Geovany Soto and threw only 12 of 35 pitches for strikes.
Problem is, you never know which Wilson you’re going to get.
Hector Santiago has good stuff but is as pitch-efficient as Wilson. That is not a good thing. The left-hander has lasted a combined three innings in his last two starts, giving up 10 runs and 12 hits.
Rookie right-hander Matt Shoemaker has been outstanding, with a 16-4 record and 3.04 ERA, and he could be the No. 2 playoff starter if he is physically sound. But Shoemaker suffered a mild left rib-cage strain Sept. 15 and is questionable for the postseason.
Reliever-turned-starter Cory Rasmus has done a solid job of replacing the injured Garrett Richards, but he can’t throw much more than 50 or 60 pitches, which puts a strain on the bullpen.
Wade LeBlanc, anyone?
“Hopefully we’ll do a better job moving forward, but we don’t have many options right now,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “We need these guys, and we have confidence they’ll find it.”
The perplexing Wilson (13-10) is the swing man. If he pitches well, the Angels could make an October run. If not, they probably won’t advance past the first round.
“We’ve looked at C.J. from every angle possible,” Scioscia said. “He’s prepared, he knows what he’s trying to do. He has terrific stuff. At times it works and he’s on top of his game, and sometimes the game is on top of him, like we saw tonight.”
Wilson said his problems stemmed from his inability to make the correct mechanical adjustments to find a consistent release point.
“You have to make adjustments, and the ones I tried made the problem a little worse,” Wilson said. “You can’t call timeout in the middle of a game and review the tapes. There’s no headset to the offensive coordinator where you can call in a different viewpoint.”
Shoemaker, who played a light game of catch Monday, is the wild card. His chances of pitching in the final five regular-season games are “very remote,” Scioscia said, but the manager is “very encouraged” that Shoemaker will be ready for the playoffs.
“You won’t know until he gets on a mound and turns it loose,” Scioscia said, “and that’s still a ways away.”
Rosters for the division series don’t have to be submitted until the morning of Game 1, so the Angels could push Shoemaker’s bullpen workout all the way back to Oct. 1, giving him the maximum amount of time to heal before the Angels have to make a decision on whether to include him on their playoff roster.
“It’s better, but it’s still sore,” Shoemaker said. “I’m getting into a lot of physical activity, moving around, getting ready to go. There’s still no timetable, but I feel very optimistic about getting on a mound again.”